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My Quest For Body Confidence [Belly Dancing Mini-Experiment!]

Posted Jan 17 2012 12:13am

I never thought I’d say this but this is one Experiment that we definitely needed push-up bras for! Hard to “shimmy” when you’ve got a high-impact sports bra on! (Also: to the commenter who asked me several posts ago if I match my sports bra to my activity, here’s your answer!)

You know those women who you just can’t take your eyes off when they move? They may not be the most beautiful person in the room nor the most talented – although sometimes they’re all that too – but there’s just something about the way they inhabit their skin that is so magnetic. Yeah, that’s not me. I have spent most of my life being awkward to the point of pain and most of the time I have no idea where my limbs are in relation to the rest of me, as evidenced by my many varied bruises.

This innate awkwardness is bad enough in real life but it shows up on film even worse. Because I’m always waiting for it to betray me at the worst possible moment, I end up being very unconfident in my body. And I also think that this obvious lack of self confidence is a big reason why I ended up in an abusive relationship in college and was sexually assaulted. People who aren’t confident in themselves are more easily manipulated and controlled and looking back I can see that now with painful clarity. Needles to say I’ve spent a good portion of my life wishing that I were otherwise and so I’ve gleaned a few things about how to learn body confidence for those of us who weren’t born with it.

1. Fake it ’till you make it. Smiling even when I’m nervous is a big one. Research has shown that smiling, even for no apparent reason, can make you feel happier. And happy people radiate confidence. (Plus smiling makes you look younger and more trustworthy, useful for those times when you want to rob a Hello Kitty store.)

2. Posture is everything. Learning to tuck my chin back (but not so much that I have double chins) and up, rolling my shoulders back and down and tucking my pelvis so that my back is not arched makes a big difference in how confident I am. Standing with good posture makes me feel taller, prettier (that hip tuck does wonders for flattening your tummy!) and stronger.

3. Sexy is not in the eye of the beholder but in the mind of the behold-ee (yeah, that’s super catchy. Still working on it.) Not that everyone needs to or even wants to be sexy all the time but it took me a long time to realize that a lot of being seen as sexy is knowing that you are. Whether this is a catch-22 or a paradigm shift for me totally depends on the day.

4. Try new things. Sure you might suck! But you also never know what you’ll be good at!

It was with all this in mind that I asked (read: begged) my friend Lindsey to teach me how to belly dance. Over the years I’ve heard so many great things about how it’s a great female bonding experience, it’s fun, it’s a good workout and it can help you become more comfortable with your body and all it’s quirks. (Although now that I’ve typed that out I realize that I also just described shopping for prom dresses.) And today I finally got to live out this dream for a belly dancing mini-experiment. It did not disappoint.

Lindsey started out by telling us a little about the history of belly dancing. Apparently it is a form of dance that has been around since the 14th century and has been used both as old-fashioned stripping and as a way for women to bond with each other apart from the male gaze. Obviously we were focusing more on the latter definition. Then we moved on to the different moves at which point I discovered that I can’t body roll to save my life. Here’s Lindsey demo’ing what it should look like:

Isn’t she beautiful? Gym Buddies Megan and Daria picked it up quickly while I did a version that looked like a cross between The Robot and a cat coughing up a hairball. I’m working on it.

Then Lindsey taught us a little routine. Here it is! (Note: don’t expect much out of the rest of us as this was our first time even attempting belly dancing but Lindsey is sure fun to watch! Check out her head isolations. It’s “Walk like an Egyptian” but without the giant hair and hoop earrings.

Clearly the ululating at the end was our fave part! You know you want to try it now!

So how did it stack up? As a workout it was a lot of fun and provided some good cardio. The warm up had us all breathing hard and pulling off our sweatshirts (see, there’s the stripping element!). And holding my arms up that long really burned in my shoulders. It wasn’t super intense but then it’s not supposed to be. As a girl-bonding experience it was a freaking riot! We laughed so hard and I think we were all able to let go and dance in a less inhibited way than if we’d had men present or an audience. And did it give me more body confidence? I can see how it would, if I kept at it. Unfortunately one class isn’t enough to undo years of programming but I really enjoyed it and would jump at the chance to try it again.

Also, the jingly hip thingie is awesome and I want one so bad. It made me feel sexier just tying it on. I would wear that thing everywhere! (P.S. my white sport socks make this outfit.)

Have you ever tried belly dancing? How body confident are you? Do you have any tips for me on increasing body confidence?

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